UK Central Government Complaint Standards

Welcoming complaints in a positive way

An effective complaint system goes out of its way to create a positive environment in which complaints are welcomed and resolved at the earliest opportunity. They know how to complain and can do this easily and without fear that it will affect the service they receive. Service users are confident their complaint will be taken seriously, looked at with empathy and answered as quickly as possible.

  • All colleagues actively promote how service users can make a complaint. By openly welcoming complaints, they are able to identify and resolve issues quickly. Colleagues receive appropriate training in how to do this and make sure service users are being listened to and treated with empathy, courtesy and respect.
  • Organisations actively reassure service users that the service they receive will not be compromised if they make a complaint, and explain what they can do if they feel the service has been compromised.
  • Organisations clearly publicise how service users can raise complaints in a way that suits them and meets their specific needs. They offer a range of ways for people to complain and make it easy for everybody to understand how the process works. This includes being clear about who can make a complaint and what will happen next.
  • Organisations make sure service users know how to access advice and support to make a complaint. This includes giving details of appropriate independent complaints advocacy and advice providers, and other support networks.
  • Each stage in the complaints procedure is responsive to the needs of each individual. Every stage meets the needs of minority and vulnerable groups and makes reasonable adjustments where required.
  • Organisations make sure colleagues who are specifically the subject of a complaint are made aware of the issues as soon as possible, and are given details of how to get advice and support throughout the process.
  • Colleagues make sure they respond to complaints at the earliest opportunity. Colleagues consistently meet expected timescales for acknowledging a complaint. They give clear timeframes for how long it will take to look into the issues, taking into account the complexity of the matter.
  • Organisations make sure colleagues can identify when issues raised in a complaint should be addressed (or are being addressed) via another route at the earliest opportunity, so a coordinated approach can be taken. Other possible routes include appeals, reference or statutory review by a tribunal or action in a court of law or disciplinary process. Colleagues know when and how to seek guidance and support from colleagues and are able to provide service users with information on where they can get support.
  • Organisations regularly promote their wish to hear from their service users and show how they are using learning from all feedback (including complaints) to improve services.